Hard work pays off as our athletes set new standards

One of the reasons we love sports is that we can feel the texture of greatness without having to move from our chairs. But this week our pulses and our hearts were raced by a string of outstanding Irish performances at the European Championships in Munich.

Uhammad Ali despised every minute of practice, but he used to say to himself, “Don’t give up. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. The moral was that nothing great works unless you make it.

The headline-grabbing Irish athletes gave it their all.

Lightweight double sculls champions Paul O’Donovan and Fintan McCarthy once again showed they are in a class of their own.

Not only did they defend their European title, adding another gold medal to their world and Olympic titles, but they did it with such finesse and ease that they could have enjoyed a Sunday cruise in Skibbereen,

New standards of excellence were also set on the athletics track, where the promise displayed by former underage competitors was delivered with style and confidence.

Israel Olatunde’s lavish performance, which earned him sixth place in the 100m final and set a new Irish record of 10.17 seconds, was to be treasured. He also became the first Irish athlete to compete in a European 100m final. At only 20 years old, there is every reason to be confident that we will see a lot more from him.

The same can certainly be said for the very gifted Rhasidat Adeleke, who is only 19 years old. She has all the attributes and discipline needed to become a star.

His track and field scholarship at the University of Texas pits him against some of the best in the world.

It’s also been a week that Ciara Mageean is not about to forget. After qualifying for the 1500m final, she said, “I believe I’m one of the best athletes in this field and I’m going to go out and prove it. His confidence was rewarded with a silver medal last night.

Louise Shanahan of Cork rode a stunning run to qualify for the women’s 800m final tonight.

Our hopes will also rest with our 4×400 meters relay team of Sophie Becker, Phil Healy, Rhasidat Adeleke and Sharlene Mawdsley, who nonchalantly broke the national record to reach today’s final.

All have demonstrated beyond any doubt that nothing can stand in the way of an indomitable will.

Further proof of this was given at the UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships in Canada. The team’s triumphant return home with a harvest of medals – gold, silver and bronze – from road races and TTs has done the nation proud. Winning may not be everything, but for the elite, hunger must be fed.

We owe them all our gratitude and admiration for their efforts.

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